Saturday, December 30, 2017

Tiki build-along, pt. 15

This is not so much a home bar build installment per se, but more of a tangential detour of the Christmas type. The Wife's favorite movie ever is "Joe vs. the Volcano," an early Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan comedy that is ambitious, weird, funny and downright surreal at times. I don't think it quite achieves what it's going for, but I appreciate the effort, and it's The Wife's favorite movie, so who am I to argue?

If you've seen the film, you'll remember early on that Joe, working in a fluorescent green hell hole of a job, has a brightly-colored hula lamp on his desk. This is the only color in an otherwise drab, soul-numbing environment. The lamp shade rotates and plays a song, "Joe's Lullaby." The lamp doesn't exist in reality--the prop department made it up specifically for the film. That hasn't stopped fans from investing tremendous effort to craft their own. There are lengthy threads devoted to it on various online forums. Having stumbled across one last year on Tiki Central, I realized I'd have to craft one as a Christmas gift to The Wife.

Easier said than done. I learned that the hula figure was a statuette originally produced by Treasure Craft back in the 1950s. The only way to get one was to scour Ebay. Which I did. Finding them wasn't a problem. Unfortunately, finding them at a reasonable price was. I finally lucked upon a set that was mis-labled on the auction site, which cut down on the competing bidders. I won. But when the package arrived in the mail, I learned just how fleeting my victory was. Here is the male statuette:

The hula girl survived, though, which was the important thing. I started the project before I thought to document it with photos, so here's a quick recap: That problematic oak plywood that gave me so much trouble on the porthole? The scrap was perfectly-suited for this project. I cut two squares of 9" and 8", then sanded, stained and glued them together. I used my router to cut out a cavity to hold a music box, then drilled a hole through for the winding key (after carefully measuring everything). I returned to Ebay to get a Reuge music box movement. I looked in vain for one that played "Joe's Lullaby" and briefly flirted with the idea of using a digital audio recorder to capture that song and play it back, but that would've added several layers of complication to an already challenging project. In the end, I settled for a music box movement that played "Lovely Hula Hands," which I thought an apropos substitute. Then I cut, stained and glued on molding trim to finish out the base before adding plastic furniture footers for the lamp base to stand upon.

Rather than attempt to cannibalize an existing lamp, I picked up a lamp kit from Lowes that included a long, threaded central rod I cut to the length I needed. This past year, I'd been harvesting and scorching quite a bit of bamboo. One piece in particular stood out--it had a series of bulbous nodes packed closely together so that it resembled a sword grip or somesuch. In fact, my son used it as a ninja sword on more than one occasion. The piece of bamboo was too narrow to effectively use in the tiki bar, but it was the perfect size for the lamp. I cut it to length, knocked out the interior nodes then threaded the rod up through it. After that, I bolted it to the base and attached the socket. All pretty straightforward.

Next, I placed the hula girl on the base and traced along her base. Then I routered out a depression for her to sit in for increased stability. Note: Somewhere along the line I coated everything with a good application of polyurethane, but I forget exactly where. Feel free to insert that step wherever you think most likely.

The bamboo and statue wanted to overlap and occupy the same space, which wasn't acceptable. Rather than notch the statue, as I've seen others do, I opted to shave out an appropriate crescent from the bamboo using my band saw. Worked out pretty well.

The next step was a bit nervous-making. To solidly, securely attach the statue to the base, I decided to use epoxy. Once epoxy sets, it's set. It won't let go. There's a window of opportunity to get everything matched up correctly, but if you're not settled by about 6 minutes in, you're out of luck and going to have to start over, which is a pain, because there's all that hardened, resinous epoxy to clean away. I'm happy to report that things went well. The epoxy stayed where it was supposed to and didn't get all over everything or go awry. The statue was firmly anchored and not going anywhere.

Next, the lamp shade. This was, beyond a doubt, the biggest pain-in-the-ass of the whole affair. One person online reportedly tracked down the original artist who designed the lamp, and got a copy of the lampshade artwork directly from them. But when people started asking if he could share the art, said poster abruptly went silent. An online posted by the handle of Jintosh cobbled together a pretty good reproduction of the shade by using screen captures from the film and faking the rest. Unfortunately (I use that word a lot) the most common custom lampshade printing source--Zazzle--only had shades of a significantly different aspect ratio than that of the shade from the film. To make it fit, the users online simply adjusted the dimensions of Jintosh's artwork, which resulted in horizontally squashed, vertically elongated images. I have OCD that manifests in different ways, and that distorted aspect pushed all the wrong buttons for me. What I ended up doing was taking Jintosh's original, uncompressed image and slicing it apart in Photoshop, so that I could recomposite the three scenes more closely together. The distinctive ocean waves simply would not line up when I did this, so ended up replacing it with actual ocean. Ditto the sailboat and storm cloud. I rebuilt the moon and clouds and dramatically enhanced the torchlight procession up the side of the Big Wu volcano. The beach scene was the most challenging, carving out plants and sand and sunset for space without it appearing chopped up and reassembled in a haphazard manner. In the end, I think I managed a convincing job, although anyone comparing it to the original artwork might be shocked at how many liberties I took.

When the shade arrived, my heart sank. The print job was gorgeous, but the shade itself was of the uno fitting type, which is a ring that sets around a socket designed for such. Every lamp I've ever had--and the lamp kit I built my lamp out of--was of the harp-and-spider type, where the lamp shade is threaded onto the top of the harp and held in place by a filial. I'd even tracked down a decorative pineapple filial like the lamp in the movie. Needless to say, the Zazzle site did not indicate anywhere that this particular lamp shade was of the uno type, and they were very slow in responding to my emails and pretty defensive at that. To make matters worse, it appears that at one time brass uno-to-harp adapter rings were common, but haven't been produced for a long time and now are either completely unavailable or outrageously expensive. In the end, I cobbled together a makeshift adapter using a steel reducing washer as a base and a PVC pipe reducing bushing (or something similar--I didn't pay close attention when I bought it) that I ran through the bandsaw to shave it down to the proper depth. Sandwiched between the washer and bushing on top of the harp, the uno fitting stays pretty much in place. It's perfect, but I was running out of time and couldn't be picky.

To finish out the lamp shade, I used the rubbery glue "Goo" to attach a length of manila rope along the top of the lamp shade, holding it in place with plastic clamps until it dried. This was a pain, because the rope kept wanting to coil and smeared the glue around before I got everything secured. Once that dried, I repeated the process with a piece of raffia table skirting I'd cut to size. And yes, the raffia behaved just as badly as the manila rope. But I finished it in time for Christmas, which was no small feat.

The Wife, I'm happy to report, seemed suitably surprised. "No way," she said upon opening the package. "These don't exist!" At first she thought I had ordered one from someone who custom made them to order. When she found out that I'd built it myself in the garage over the previous month, she said, "But weren't you afraid of me walking in on you?" To which I answered, "You did! Over and over again. It wasn't easy to disguise what I was working on. Plus, you weren't really paying attention."

So, while this lamp is definitely tiki-esque, it's pretty doubtful that it will ever spend much time in my tiki bar.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Ummagumma
Chicken Ranch Central

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